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Symptoms & Diagnosis

The Wilmot Cancer Institute provides the full spectrum of stomach cancer care, from initial diagnosis and treatment to recovery and rehabilitation. Stomach malignancies are in a group known as gastrointestinal (GI) cancers, and Wilmot offers the largest team of GI specialists in the Finger Lakes region. Wilmot also offers the most advanced treatments and technology, including clinical trials testing the latest therapies.

We work in multidisciplinary teams. “Multidisciplinary” means that our care providers include experts with a variety of specialties: surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, nurse practitioners, social workers, and clinical researchers. They work together on your case to provide the most personalized care possible.

Symptoms

Getting an accurate diagnosis is essential to getting the best treatment. Early-stage stomach cancer doesn’t usually cause symptoms other than general indigestion, bloating, heartburn, or mild nausea, which are common signs of other less-serious illnesses. In later stages the signs and symptoms of stomach cancer can include:

  • Blood in the stools
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss without trying and loss of appetite
  • Stomach pain
  • Yellowing of the whites of eyes and skin (jaundice)
  • Buildup of fluid in the abdomen
  • Trouble swallowing

Screening

Routine screening for stomach cancer is done in other parts of the world, such as Japan, where the incidence is very high. It is not done in the U.S., but talk to your doctor about the benefits of screening if you have several risk factors.

How is stomach cancer diagnosed?

Medical history and physical examination: This step includes a complete medical history and assessment of risk factors and symptoms. A physical exam will focus on the abdomen and anything that seems unusual.

Blood and lab tests: This involves collecting blood and looking for tumor markers and other chemicals that indicate cancer is present.  Doctors might also test for anemia, which can occur in connection with stomach cancer.

Imaging: This includes x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and PET scans, which provide detailed pictures of the stomach and digestive tract.

Upper endoscopy: This is a key procedure used to diagnose stomach cancer. Doctors pass a thin, lighted tube with a tiny camera into the esophagus and stomach to search for tumors. 

Biopsy: If cancer is detected with an upper endoscopy or other imaging test, a biopsy involves removing cells or other tissue for examination by a pathologist.

Upper gastrointestinal (GI) series: This involves drinking a chalky substance called barium that coats the lining of the esophagus and stomach, and then undergoing x-rays to look for cancer. It’s less invasive than an endoscopy but not as accurate.